Late breaking news: Liar has sold to Editora Record in Brazil, who are also the home of the Magic or Madness trilogy. And for the first time in my career a book of mine has sold in Turkey! Liar has found a home at Artemis, an imprint of Alfa Yayin Grubu. Yay! Liar will now be published in seven different countries: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Taiwan, Turkey and the USA. Not bad for a book that isn’t out until October.
A couple of readers have asked me what this means exactly. How do books get sold to other countries? How does it all work?
Basically the world is divided up into various different territories for publishing rights. Those territories (more or less) correspond to different countries. Though notoriously the UK is under the delusion that many other countries are part of its territory. Newsflash to the UK: Your empire crumbled decades ago. Get over it!
When my agent, Jill Grinberg, sells one of my books the first rights she sells are North American (USA + Canada) and ANZ (Australia + New Zealand). Those two rights are sold directly. Thus my agent gets 15% and I get the rest.1
Translation rights to my work are sold by my agent working with different sub-agents around the world. Which means that they split the agents’ commission, with both my agent and the sub-agent taking 10%, and me getting 80%. Some sub-agents handle more than one territory. I know of one who handles Spanish and Portuguese language sales in multiple countries, but most sub-agents work only in one territory, which is usually their home country, and thus they know it really, really well.
The larger commission is no big deal because without agents working on your behalf you would not sell in other countries. The sub-agents are the people who know which publishing houses are after what kind of book, and who has the best translators. They’re the ones who sort out the labyrinthine tax laws and tax arrangements between your home country and the country you’re selling into. Also, I don’t know about you, but I am not fluent in any of the languages spoken in any of the countries I’ve been sold in other than Australia and the US.2
I became very interested in foreign rights after my first visit to the Bologna Book Fair, where I met some of my foreign publishers, and saw the world-wide business of buying and selling rights to kids and teen books up close. I was totally fascinated to learn that the Netherlands is not big on fantasy, Brazil loves chicklit, and most of Eastern Europe loves science fiction. The US market is notorious for buying almost no translation rights at all. I wonder what the Australian YA market is known for buying?
I hope that helps you understand a bit more what I’m talking about when I jump up and down because Turkey just bought my book. Did I mention that I just sold in Turkey?